It's time for PR to shine at Cannes

A glance at the program for the Cannes Festival of Creativity, which kicks off in the south of France a week on Sunday, says a lot about the direction in which marketing communications is traveling.

A glance at the program for the Cannes Festival of Creativity, which kicks off in the south of France a week on Sunday, says a lot about the direction in which marketing communications is traveling.

Contrary to popular belief, especially among those of my colleagues in the PRWeek office who will not be joining me on the Côte d'Azur, Cannes is not just one long jolly interrupted by a few awards ceremonies. The days of creative ad types attending and not going anywhere near the official festival venue for fear of it interrupting their partying may not be completely over, but the increasing presence of a significant number of clients among the 12,000-strong delegates may have tempered behavior slightly.

For PR folks less accustomed to the ways of La Croisette (see our essential survival guide here by the way), it is all bright, shiny, and relatively new anyway. And there is a lot to be learned from the seminars, workshops, forums, and fringe events at the festival.

Titles such as ‘Brands as Newsrooms,' ‘The New World of Online Content,' ‘The Changing Face of the CMO,' ‘YouTube and Branded Content,' ‘The Crisis and Liberation of Information,' ‘Data-Driven Creativity,' ‘Is Advertising Destined for the Encyclopedia,' ‘Every Company is a Media Company,' ‘Creativity in Social Media,' ‘Beyond the Device,' ‘The Social Soundtrack,' ‘How Ideas Go Viral,' and ‘Why Be the 30-Second Spot When You Can Be the Whole Show' demonstrate that the issues that are top of mind in Cannes are squarely in the purview and skill sets of the modern PR and communications pro.

The theme of the rise of content and data as the backbone of telling brand stories is unmistakable – it is occupying everybody's minds, across advertising, marketing, digital, direct, and PR. The buzz of debating these topics and philosophies with a diverse mix of people from multifarious parts of the globe and numerous disciplines sharpens perspectives and enhances understanding.

This year's PR Lions are chaired by Ketchum's EMEA CEO David Gallagher, whose on-the-ground Cannes experience, along with fellow judge Ogilvy's global MD for strategy and planning Jennifer Scott, starts a week before delegates start arriving, principally holed up in a judging bunker beneath the Grand Auditorium.

Gallagher has already stated that too many of the entries still rely on advertising value equivalency to make their case, but he is excited about the best work that has been put before this year's jury and it seems the mainstream PR firms are learning from their advertising cousins in how to better present their submissions.

Let's hope the industry's work is honored among the winners of the Cannes PR Lions that will be announced on Monday June 17, and that the PR awards aren't once again dominated by advertising firms. Because there is no doubt that much of the best work being carried out is led by the in-house and agency PR sectors.

If you're on La Croisette, I'll maybe see you there. If you're not, you can follow all the action on PRWeek's website and our parent company Haymarket's Live@Cannes blog, which will be up and running from Thursday.

À la prochaine.

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